Dhanalakshmi shared this story with us:
I have been working as a health worker with AREDS for the past 18 years. I have two daughters, one who is twenty years old, named Anuschka, doing her second year MBB and my second daughter is doing tenth standard. My husband works in a trade union sector with AREDS for unorganized workers. I started the work because of the support from my husband. My husband believes that, if you approach things with a positive state of mind, we can change things, we can do great things. That positive energy pushed me to go work in the same field. Now, I work with pregnant women and since I’m happy, I can give words of encouragement to the pregnant women. I believe that if pregnant women receive positive energy and words, they can give birth more easily and to a healthy child. So we should all strive to have positive energy and thoughts. 

I try to ensure continuous follow up and a trust relationship with each family. We’re not there just for one or two months, we follow the same family for over five years. It means we sort of become members of that family. Starting with the pregnant mother, being there for the delivery, to when the child turns five years old, it creates a real bond. 

My first daughter got in the nursing school on merit basis, because of her high marks on the final examination, so she didn’t have to pay admission, but the other expenses for uniforms and study material are still very high. We get some support from AREDS, and we also have some land that we farm. Both our parents have also contributed from their savings.  I’m also a member and the coordinator of a self-help group supported by SWATE, which also promotes the education of the girls of members and provides educational support for higher studies. 

Surely, we have to give great thanks to my Belgian friends. My life is a great example of what can be achieved with some help, from AREDS and SWATE. My husband can work in the trade union and me as a health worker because of the Belgian support. Now, my children are in higher education because of that support, and so from the bottom of my heart, I am so thankful. 

Having two daughters myself also helps when dealing with adolescent girls in our communities. The parents of the other children also look at how I raise my children, and what they become. When I provide classes to the adolescent girls, where we talk about diseases and hygiene and sexual and reproductive health, the parents support me. I can understand adolescents, especially girls. Being a girl between 13 to 18 years is a difficult period, where they don’t know if they’re a girl or a woman, so many changes and confusion. Emotions are tricky and learning how to manage them. Most of the questions I get are about menstruations, hygiene practices. They have so many doubts, how they should be careful, how to use materials, if we can go to school when we have our period. Here, there is still a practice that says that women can’t go outside if they have their menstruation, we can’t carry things or be in a group. A lot of stigma is involved and so girls are often confused and come to me for clarification. Adolescent girls sometimes believe that while they have their period, they are not allowed to enter the church or the temple. They can’t eat certain foods, or they can’t come in the living room of the house. They shouldn’t see men or sleep in a separate space. So there are many misconceptions. So I also give a lot of psychological advice. 
July 2014, AREDS – SWATE